Conflicts of Interest and the Changing Concept of Marriage: The Congressional Compromise

The number of women, including married women, seeking prominent positions in American business and government has increased rapidly in recent years, and this development raises serious questions regarding potential conflicts of interest between spouses who work either in related areas of the public and private sectors or solely within the public sector. Specifically, when one spouse is a member of Congress, conflicts of interest can occur if the other spouse occupies a high-level position in private industry or in the executive branch of the government. This Note examines the potential dangers in these employment arrangements of members of Congress and their spouses to determine whether special constraints are warranted to combat potential conflicts of interest. In so doing it scrutinizes the degree to which our society views marital partners as autonomous, the interests protected by current conflict-of-interest regulations, and the extent to which the rigor of general conflict provisions has been mitigated with respect to the marital relationship. Concluding that safeguards against conflicts of interest are necessary in husband-wife employment situations involving a member of Congress, the Note examines the possible forms such regulation could take and recommends the creation of an independent ethics commission.